Last week, we reported on a coalition of influential conservative Christian organizations that are drumming up outrage over the Hobby Lobby case and other recent culture war skirmishes. The goal of this campaign—which involves closed-door briefings for pastors and rallies simulcast to mega-churches around the country—is to mobilize Christian voters by persuading them that their religious liberties are at stake in tomorrow’s election.
On Sunday, the coalition held another simulcast rally, at Grace Community Church in Houston. And this time Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star who was briefly suspended last year after going on an anti-gay tirade, was among the speakers. (Watch the video above.)
The bearded patriarch strode onto the stage Sunday clutching a dog-eared Bible and told the cheering crowd America was founded as a Christian nation. “America, America, it cannot be said too strongly or too often that this great nation was not founded by religionists but by Christians,” he declared. “Not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Robertson attributed the quote to Patrick Henry; its origins are disputed). He then read a passage from Philippians about a Christian who was imprisoned for voicing his beliefs, and asserted that the same thing could happen in the United States. Robertson also likened the treatment of Christians today to the persecution Jesus faced: “They hated the son of God without reason, and now they hate us.”
Robertson’s son, Alan, later took the stage and claimed that Satan was to blame for the firestorm surrounding his father’s homophobic comments: “The evil one is attacking my family because we speak truth.”
The speakers roster also included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Todd Starnes of Fox News, as well as David and Jason Benham—the twin brothers who lost their planned HGTV show after the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way dug up audio of David railing against “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation.” Like many of the speakers, the Benhams—who have compared their situation to the Christians being beheaded by ISIS—cast their treatment as flagrant religious discrimination. And they urged viewers to stand firm against the onslaught.
Chillin with @GovMikeHuckabee and look who #photobombed! Good ol’ Phil Robertson 🙂 pic.twitter.com/eGU9lyilMg
— David Benham (@DavidDBenham) November 2, 2014
These impassioned accounts were interspersed with calls for believers to vote their “biblical values.” During his speech, Huckabee asked the thousands of people in attendance to pull out their smartphones and look at photos of their children or grandchildren. “If you would die for the image on that screen,” he said, “could you not at least vote so that they would not live in an America where they would be told that they could not pray and preach and worship and believe as their conscience would tell them to do?”
Texas pastor Rick Scarborough sounded a similar note during his closing remarks. “On Tuesday everyone here should act,” he urged. “That’s your day to vote your values.” Addressing his fellow pastors, he added, “This is the hour, gentleman, when we’ll either stand up and be counted or our country will be lost.”
Many of the groups behind the event—among them Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage—are known for their fierce anti-gay rhetoric. AFA, one of the most influential conservative Christian organizations, has gone as far as blaming gays for the Holocaust. “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler,” Bryan Fischer, the group’s director of issues and analysis, once wrote, “and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.” Fischer has also argued that the “homosexual agenda” endangers “every fundamental right” in the Constitution, including religious freedom, and has called for homosexuality to be outlawed.
For more on the scare tactics these organizations are using to get voters to the polls, see the I Stand Sunday promotional video: